View Full Version : Biomechanics, Ergonomics, F-16, and VDU's

H.j. Woltring, Fax/tel +31.40.413 744
09-16-1992, 12:46 AM
Dear Biomch-L readers,

Following my recent posting on an Ergonomics position with Atomic Energy
Research Canada, I have received a number of reactions in private, and one
of our subscribers started a more general discussion about Ergonomics cost
benefits on the C+HEALTH list (Computers & Health).

In a Biomechanics context, colleagues at the Division for Biomedical Physics
and Technology at the Erasmus University in Rotterdam/NL have done some
interesting, ergonomic work. A few days ago, I received a report (in Dutch,
I'm afraid) entitled "Medical Technology in the field of the Movement Appara-
tus" in which the results of funding by the Dutch Ministry of Education and
Sciences over the past three years are reported.

The preface subtitling a cartoon in this report is intrigueing (my trans-

In the case of Medical Technology the first priority is equipment that
works, is used, and if possible, sold. Publications about this are
usually confined to a "Technical Note". If it concerns a product, the
relevant industry does not at all appreciate detailed publication.
In this way, the image of the cartoon results: a scientist's output
can usually be gaged well by considering the number of publications,
while the result of technology can, in fact, *not* be measured from
merely the number of publications and Ph.D. theses.

However, in the whole scope of scientific endeavour, the creation
of, e.g., a new measurement method results in numerous publications
by investigators that use this measurement possibility.

Or, in the words of the German poet and author Friedrich Schiller two
centuries ago on the classical duality of scientific endeavour: "Einem
ist sie die hohe, die himmlische Goettin; dem andern eine tuechtiche Kuh
die ihn mit Butter versorgt" (for the one she is the high and heavenly
goddess; for the other, a vigorous cow who provides him with butter).
Yet, quality assessment and verification of new methods require more
openness than a commercial provider might care to provide, and the quality
of a scientist's productivity does not simply follow from the number of
publications that bear his or her name. Under patents law, openness is
reasonably guaranteed; under copyright and trade secrecy law (especially
in respect of software), this remains to be seen.

One of the (in my mind) many interesting items in the Rotterdam report
is a study of neck movement and loading in F-16 fighter pilots, and the
implications of this work for the positioning of Visual Display Units
in man-computer-interaction. Based on a biomechanical model of the neck
and on actual measurements on F-16 pilots flying at high altitudes, it
was concluded that looking straight ahead results in a very relaxed
posture, and that this would be better than the currently recommended
15 - 25 degrees downward viewing direction on VDU's. This idea is now
being introduced at a large scale with the Hoogovens (blast furnaces)
in IJmuiden/NL. The study has been reported in the British Medical
Journal "The Lancet" with, a.o., the following conclusion:

When the Lancet becomes available on floppy disc,
adopt the F-16 fighter pilot posture.

I wish to compliment our Rotterdam colleagues, and hope that the Dutch
Ministry of Education and Science will provide them with a well-deserved
continuation of their funding! Some of them are subscribers to Biomch-L,
and will hopefully be willing to provide further details on their work.